Sunday, November 29, 2015

The president of the Diyarbakır Bar Human Rights Association in Turkey assassinated

Pro Kurdish lawyer Tahir Elci shot dead in Turkey

Pro-Kurdish lawyer Tahir Elci shot dead in Turkey

Top human rights lawyer shot dead in Turkey's restive south-east

Tahir Elçi was killed as he was calling for an end to violence in Kurdish majority city of Diyarbakir, sparking protests in cities across the country

After Tahir Elci was killed, a gun battle erupted between police and unidentified gunmen - Mark Lowen reports.

A leading human rights lawyer was shot dead in Turkey’s restive southeast on Saturday as he was calling for a halt to violence in the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir.

Tahir Elçi, head of the local bar association, died from a single gunshot wound in the head after attackers opened fire on a press conference. The assailants have yet to be identified.

The killing sparked protests in Istanbul, Ankara and Diyarbakir. In central Istanbul, police fired tear gas and water cannons at angry marchers who shouted "You can't kill us all", and "The state has to give an account."

Police also clashed with demonstrators in Diyarbakir, an AFP photographer said.

A prominent pro-Kurdish lawyer and rights activist has been shot dead in Diyarbakir, south-eastern Turkey.28-11-2015

Tahir Elci was killed in a gun battle between police and unidentified gunmen. Two police officers also died.

He had been making a statement calling for an end to violence between the Turkish state and the Kurdish rebel group the PKK when he was shot dead.

In his last words recorded by journalists at the meeting, Elçi said: “We do not want guns, clashes or operations here,” condemning the damage recent fighting had caused to Diyarbakir’s historic Sur neighbourhood. The bar association has called his killing an “assassination”.

A policeman was also killed in the attack. Three officers and several reporters were wounded in the ensuing shootout.

"The moment the statement ended, the crowd was sprayed with bullets," a local official from the pro-Kurdish HDP party, Omer Tastan, told Reuters. "A single bullet struck Elçi in the head.”

A prosecutor and his team later came under fire as they went to examine the crime scene. The prosecutor and two officers were reportedly injured in the attack.

Police in Istanbul fired water cannon to disperse crowds demonstrating against Mr Elci's death.

A curfew has now been imposed in the neighbourhood where Mr Elci was shot.

Mr Elci, who was head of the Diyarbakir Bar Association, had previously been detained and received death threats after saying the separatist PKK should not be regarded as a terrorist 

In July violence resumed in the conflict between the army and the PKK after a ceasefire collapsed. 

Dozens have been killed in violent clashes since.
Mr Elci had been calling on both sides to pull back from the conflict

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The UK’s ambassador to Turkey, Richard Moore, wrote on Twitter: “Shocked and depressed by the murder of my friend Tahir Elçi. A good and brave man cut down. A human rights defender over many decades.”

Elçi, a prominent Kurdish lawyer, was detained last month for “terrorist propaganda” after he said in a television interview that the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was not a terrorist organisation. He was awaiting trail, facing a seven-year jail sentence.

Last Sunday, the HDP said party leader Selahattin Demirtas escaped an assassination attempt when a bullet hit his car.

Violence in southeastern Turkey has surged after the three-decade conflict between the Turkish state and the PKK resumed in July, killing hundreds of soldiers, civilians and militants since. The PKK is designated as a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.

Elçi, who said he received numerous death threats after his television appearance, was known to criticise violent actions of both the PKK and the security forces.

He also represented two British journalists from VICE News who were detained in Diyarbakir in August, and had continued to represent their fixer Mohammed Ismail Rasool, who remains in a Turkish prison.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, confirming Elçi’s death in a speech in the western town of Balikesir, said: “This incident shows how right Turkey is in its determination to fight against terrorism.”

Media captionRiot police deployed water cannon and tear gas to drive back protesters
"We do not want guns, clashes and operations here", Mr Elci was saying before being shot.
"The moment the statement ended, the crowd was sprayed with bullets," a local official from the pro-Kurdish HDP party, Omer Tastan, told Reuters.
The US embassy in Ankara said it was "shocked" at Mr Elci's "tragic death", calling him a "a courageous defender of human rights".

The incident sparked instant protests in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir and Diyarbakir.

A crowd on Istanbul's central Istiklal Street chanted "We are all Tahir Elci" and "You can't kill us all," accusing the state of complicity in the attack.

Government supporters said Mr Elci was killed in a PKK attack while opponents blamed Turkish nationalists, talking of a "planned assassination", says the BBC's Mark Lowen in Turkey.

"The state has to give an account," shouted protestors in Istanbul on Saturday

A Turkish government official said in a written statement: "We are determined to shed light on today's fatal incident in Diyarbakir. An official investigation has been launched and we have assigned four inspectors to this case".

"At this time, we believe that Mr Elci may have been caught in the crossfire but we aren't ruling out the possibility that a third party directly targeted him."President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the incident justified the state's "fight against terrorism".

In the aftermath of the shootout, authorities imposed a curfew on the Sur district, where Elçi was killed. A similar police operation in October led to the deaths of several civilians, including a 12-year-old girl.

Elçi opposed the state’s curfews and was pushing for an investigation into the deaths. “After all,” he told in an interview last month, “if there is no justice, there cannot be peace.”